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Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Bad product managers are like hairstylists

in: Anticipate, Create

The first thing someone asks me when I go to get my hair cut is, “How do you like it?”

This is the wrong question to ask. It presumes that I (not the expert on hair) have a preference that’s relevant.

(Sure, we’re creatures of habit, so we may well have a preference, and hey, we’re paying for it so we get to choose. But bear with me.)

What a stylist should be asking is questions like, “What do you do for a living?” and “how do your co-workers dress?” Perhaps they’d ask, “Do you have time to towel and blowdry it in the morning?” Or maybe they should wonder, “Do you play sports like wrestling in which hair length is a factor? Are you on a team that needs helmets?”

A good stylist would try to discern a pattern of needs (which the customer knows a great deal about) and then applying their domain expertise (cutting hair) to choose what’s best. In many companies, the people in charge of product direction are like stylists. Which causes lousy product decisions.

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Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

The opposite of startup: Observations from a remarkable week in New York

in: Anticipate, Create, Funding, Startups

I was in New York for an historic week. While in the city for three conferences and a weekend of R&R, I saw firsthand some of the changes that are happening to the financial markets. It’s no hyperbole to say that the past few days will shape the next century for much of the Western world, and they are the result of a free-market experiment gone horribly wrong.

Normally, I try to keep this blog focused on startups. But I wanted to share some of what I saw while there; I believe it holds some important lessons for entrepreneurs as well as a few guidelines for how to run your businesses in the coming drought.

On my arrival last week, I walked past Lehman Brothers mid-meltdown. Town cars were parked three deep, and suited executives with confidence-inspiring grey hair fled the guarded doors into the safe embrace of stretch Lincolns.

Towncars outside Lehman Brothers on September 16

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